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The Tech-pert: Four Surprising Things I Got for Less by Shopping Online

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 9:56AM Thursday October 20, 2011
under Money Saving Tips

Everybody knows that whether you're shopping for big-ticket items like PCs and TVs or smaller items like books and cameras, the best deals are usually online.

Take HDMI cables, which are used to pair your HDTV with your Blu-ray player, game console, Roku box, and other gadgets. Most retail stores sell them for $20-30 (if not more), but you can find cables of equal quality online for as little as $2-3.

That's getting to be common knowledge these days. What you may not know is that the Internet can save you a bundle on plenty of other items, many of which you might not think to look for online. I've rounded up four examples of products I've scored for less than I ever could have at a retail store.

The secret? For many items: eBay.
Accessories for my Nook, iPad, iPhone, etc.

It's okay to walk into an Apple store and walk out with, say, an iPhone or iPad. But you should walk right past that wall of accessories--the one packed with cases, cables, car chargers, speaker docks, and the like. They're monstrously overpriced compared with comparable products you can get online.

Perfect example: Apple sells a black iPhone 4 bumper case for $29. Web retailer Meritline sells a black iPhone 4 bumper case for $2.99. And if you're looking for something like a car charger or extra sync cable, look no further than eBay, where you can find both (sometimes bundled together) for literally a few bucks.

Indeed, eBay is home to dirt-cheap accessories for just about every gadget out there: phones, tablets, e-readers, MP3 players, you name it.

Replacement batteries for my cordless phones

My decade-old Uniden cordless phone system relies on BT-446 rechargeable batteries for its handsets, and recently those batteries have started to fail. Best Buy charges $11.99 for replacements; Radio Shack, $9.99. Plus sales tax of course, and a trip to the store.

Knowing better, I took a virtual drive to eBay, where I found a three-pack of BT-446 batteries for $8.75 shipped via USPS First Class Mail. They were at my door three days later.

Filters for my water-filtration system

My house sits on a well, and our water-filtration system includes a gizmo that uses a pair of Pentek R50-BB filter cartridges. These have to be replaced every three months or so, and my local Sears charges $24.74 per cartridge--meaning I'm looking at around $200 per year just for filters.

Thankfully, I found an outfit called DiscountFilterStore.com that sells them for $9.99 apiece--and doesn't charge me sales tax on top of it. Great example of huge savings on an important (but uncommon) household item.

A portable projection screen for theater-size movie viewing

I don't have a proper home-theater room, but I do own a projector and a Blu-ray player—which means I can turn just about any room into a home theater (or even venture outside in the summer). The key ingredient is a screen, one that stands securely on a tripod but folds down for easy carrying/storage when not in use.

These are hard to come by in retail stores, but I found a 72-inch, 16:9 portable projection screen for under $80 on eBay. And that included free shipping. For another $10-15, I could have bumped up to an 80-inch screen, but that just seemed like overkill.

Well, there's my list. Now it's your turn: What unusual items have you scored online, and how big were the savings?

Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, "How to Do Everything: Palm Pre." Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.